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My parents were quite strict when I was growing up. So, I became a master at bullshit stories about where I was going or what I was doing. Sorry, let me rephrase that –  I thought I was a master at it.

It was more like I had done a six-week course that I didn’t complete in Successful Bullshitting. Still, that was all going to change when I hit eighteen. I was going to be an adult and I could do whatever I wanted, I would have total freedom. That’s what I thought and that’s what I was living for.

The plan worked for all of two months before I found out I was pregnant. So, to say I spoke too soon is an understatement.

I had a bad feeling I was pregnant. Protection had been used, but I had this pain in my gut that told me something was up…like when you just know they’ve forgotten your garlic sauce when you order takeaway. It is like that, times a million zillion, kinda thing.

I went into town to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t want to buy one locally in case I’d bump into someone I knew. I went into boots in Stephen Green Shopping Centre in the centre of Dublin City. I was in and out as quickly as possible. I went to the toilets and did the test.

I could see the result coming up pretty much straight away. I slid down the wall of the cubicle and cried silently for about 20 minutes. It wasn’t shock, it was grief. The carefree life I had planned for myself had died at that moment.

Apart from my friend Laura, I had told no one. At the time, my parents were out most evenings at the hospital because my Grandma was dying. For the next few weeks, I was pretty much in a haze. I’d cry myself to sleep and pray that I would wake up covered in blood. In my mind, at the time this would mean I'd had a miscarriage and the whole thing would be over.

It was the only thing on my mind 24/7. Every time I found myself involved in a conversation- the Leaving Cert, Debs, summer holiday with school friends, college choices all that was going through my head was I'M F*CKED, I'M F*CKED, I'M F*CKED. I drifted away from family and friends. I wasn’t laughing, or singing ridiculously catchy songs like I always had (I still do this and it’s very irritating for everyone around me). I had completely checked out. I had a huge secret which was only going to get bigger and bigger, quite literally.

When I was about two and a half months pregnant, I decided to tell my mother.

I wrote a letter. Left it on the kitchen table and ran across the road to Laura’s house. It was the easier option, yes, but I physically could not say the words- ‘I’m pregnant’.  What seemed like a very short time later. my mam followed me over to Laura’s. She came in, gave me a hug and told me to come home when I was ready.

So that’s when the pregnancy became real. It was no longer a secret.

And things got a lot better (but very real) very quickly. The first thing my dad said to me was ‘I quite like the idea of being a grandad’. Which at the time meant so much to me because being the youngest and only girl I really felt I had disappointed him. I slowly realised that my parents were on my team and they were going to do everything to help.

The next few months were challenging.

I continue to go to school where I felt like a bigger alien day by day. The plan was always to do my Leaving Cert. I become obsessed that if nothing else I would get to do my Leaving Cert, I could have control over this. The thoughts of having to do it again and repeat my final year was just too much.

I went for an appointment at the hospital on my due date. I was waiting for a stretcher to be pulled out and for all the staff to tell me this baby was coming.

But it wasn’t. I’d have to be two weeks overdue to be induced. ‘Don’t worry, plenty of women have done their Leaving Certs in here’ I was told.  It was just over two weeks to the Leaving Cert starting. With this bombshell, I just broke down.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Mother nature did end up throwing me a bone though and I had my daughter four days later. 13 days after that I sat my Leaving Cert which was a surreal experience.

I was given my own room to sit the Leaving Cert. At the time, it was an option for a student if they have been through an illness or I suppose, in my case, child birth.

It did make the process even more intense looking back at it now. I’d do an exam in my old class with the school receptionist as supervisor and then walk home and feed my daughter.

I remember one of the girls came over to me and asked me how my baby girl was. It was so nice to have one of my peers who I haven’t seen in what felt like a lifetime acknowledge that the outcome of a stressful pregnancy had been my beautiful daughter.

I think though, in many ways, I was still the alien and people just didn’t know what to say to me.

When the Leaving Cert was over, just like everyone, I could take a breath. I wasn’t going on holidays with all my friends. I had a very different summer. I didn’t really know the person I was before I was a mother but I didn’t even recognise the person in the early weeks of my pregnancy. She was completely gone. I was just like any other first-time mother-full of love, fear, exhaustion and newfound wisdom.

Now, as a parent to three children, one of the things I really take from the experience is (apart from my girl, the light of my life, of course) is how my parents dealt with the whole thing.

I always try to remind myself that my children are their own human beings and I can’t make decisions for them. But if they need me in difficult times, it’s how I deal with that that matters. They have been my rock and my biggest supporters when I didn’t make it easy. And that’s the real test- being there for your child when they decide to feck off to work in a chipper in Courtown for the summer and come home pregnant.

Follow more of Emma's adventures on her Facebook page.

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Meditation has been long regarded as an excellent way to clear one’s mind and help centre and focus the brain for specific purposes. For some, it means improving their overall mental health or outlook on life.

Many doctors even recommend meditation for helping reduce various symptoms or also promote healing from specific ailments and diseases.

If you happened on this article looking for information about meditation and how it relates to education, you are in the right place. You might also want to take things a step further by collaborating with service like essay help to maximise your grade on the paper.

Every effort you make to excel in academics will help boost or maintain your GPA.

Meditation Increases Self-Discipline

Students, in particular, can gain much from learning how to meditate. Meditation is a discipline and, like any other, it takes time to develop the ability to do it well.

The upside is that it is one of the most powerful avenues of self-discipline there is and it can help in all areas of academics, particularly study, and test-taking.

Let’s have a look at a few of the ways it can assist students to perform better on the test.

Meditation Improves Focus

The act of clearing one’s mind and controlling incoming or outgoing thoughts, regardless, of external stimuli, can help with exams in some ways. Most notably, it teaches the brain how to block out unwanted stimuli.

This is an integral part of staying focused while studying as well as keeping one’s mind on the task of taking an exam.

Students who meditate are less likely to let their minds wander during tests or study sessions. They don’t worry about other classes, work responsibilities, or relationship woes in the middle of study sessions.

Those extraneous details don’t interfere when it is time to take the exam either.

Meditation Reduces Stress

Being able to relax body and mind at will also gives the mind a chance to regroup and prioritise emotional stimuli. Learning how to meditate makes the brain more efficient at managing negative emotions like anger, fear, worry, nervousness, and more.

These things don’t just go away, but they become more compartmentalised. This also makes it easier to deal with the stresses of studying for and taking exams.

Meditation Helps Students Retain More When Studying

Students who meditate tend to remember more of the fine details when studying for tests. Having a deeper understanding of a subject than average puts students in the position to perform better on tests and even turn in more detailed written assignments.

Ask the students on campus who tutor or provide homework help what their secret is for retaining so much great information and it is very likely that more than a few will cite meditation as one of their most significant strategies for learning.

Meditation Builds Confidence

Meditating is not easy. It can take years to develop the skill to do it for more than just a few minutes at a time. Students who strive to get better at it also feel more motivated to excel in other areas, particularly academics.

As they surpass milestones in meditation, they also develop confidence in their abilities to reach difficult milestones in education, like performing well on exams under challenging classes.

Learning how to meditate and getting good at quieting your mind will help in many areas of life, particularly in academics. The more you do it, the more you will see its applications in other areas as well.

Job performance, relationships, and increased mental clarity are just a few of the many benefits of committing to meditation as a discipline.

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The mere thought of sitting the Leaving Cert again makes me feel queasy. The memories of my final year exams aren’t pleasant, and I’m sure I’m not the only Irish person who feels that way.

Reading crumpled history notes through strained eyes at 2 am became a staple part of my nighttime routine during sixth year.

Some people sail through exam season, but other succumb to the pressure of the Leaving Cert.

We got frustrated over our struggle to understand Pythagoras’ theorem.

We shed tears over the pressure to memorise quotes from Macbeth for higher level English.

We had nightmares about not getting enough points for our dream college course.

I couldn’t possibly go back to that time of never-ending stress, tears and the Straith Pictíur, unlike broadcaster Stephen Byrne who went back-to-school nearly a decade after he sat his Leaving Cert.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Stephen Byrne (@stephenbyrne) on

The former YouTube star has a show on one of the nation’s biggest radio stations and has interviewed everyone from Oprah to Steven Speilberg, so why on earth would you swap the Oscar red carpet for French grammar lessons?

He told SHEmazing: “It felt incredibly different but all so similar at the same time. When I first sat down in Geography and began learning about rocks, it felt incredibly nostalgic.”

The one difference he noted was young people’s ability to open up about their mental health: “The progressiveness of young people and their vocabulary around mental health though has changed in a major way."

He explained: “I felt very proud to sit among the students I spent my classes with but at the same time was incredibly jealous of that experience too."

"I feel like LGBT people of my generation have a somewhat delayed adolescence because we didn't get to experience similar things to other young people as we were suppressing ourselves for much longer. “

The documentary is bound to start a huge conversation surrounding young people’s mental health, but the entire process took quite the knock on the 28-year-old.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Stephen Byrne (@stephenbyrne) on

Despite his struggles, Stephen described the experience as one of the most cathartic journeys of his life

“I was quite lost last year and that felt very similar to how I felt during my original exam year so this sort of bridged a connection between that younger version of me and my current self,” he commented.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Stephen Byrne (@stephenbyrne) on

It’s clear the Leaving Cert doesn’t cater to everyone. At the end of the day, it’s a memory test and the students who can memorise poetry quotes and geography facts the best are rewarded.

We never truly see the real picture of what life as a Leaving Cert student is like. People share good luck tweets during exam season and like photos of their friend's results on Instagram, but Leaving Again will open the eyes of the public to the reality of the Leaving Cert.

Leaving Again airs on RTÉ One at 10:15 pm.

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The country is currently in the midst of exam-itis, with its young people worrying about passing state tests, the elderly lighting candles with a vehement fervour, and those of us in the middle casting our minds back to the time when we did what could arguably be considered the most difficult, stressful exams some of us will ever take. 

When I underwent the trauma of my first Leaving Cert back in 2011, I went into it with a very laissez-faire attitude. 

This was because I had applied to art college, and had already gotten in based on my portfolio of work alone. 

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So, feeling like the smug little brat, I was aged 17 (barely, I turned 17 two months before the Leaving Cert loomed) and I coasted through, doing the bare minimum for subjects I hated like Maths and Economics, and throwing myself lavishly upon the subjects I loved, like Art, English and History. 

It's safe to say that by the time my results rolled around by the end of that summer, those were the only three subjects I had done anything close to well in, but feeling safe in the knowledge that my life as an amazing artist was about to unfold before me, I didn't think much of my 300 point score. 

I honestly wasn't too bothered. It was only later hearing the high flying marks that had been awarded to my friends did I feel slightly sub par. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. 

There was also an awkward moment on our result night out, when one of the girls – laughing because some had asked her how she got on – said 'I did grand, at least I didn't get, like, 300 points or something.' 

An unnatural hush fell upon the group as we sat outside in the fading Leaving Cert weather sunshine, as everyone knew how I had scored in the great, defining points system. 

She realised her indiscretion immediately and apologised, red-faced and completely mortified over her slip of the tongue, but it definitely stuck with me.

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I pottered off to art college that coming September, moved out of home, and finally committed myself to doing art full time – something I had always wanted to do.

It was only when I finally got to art college, after years of dreaming about it, that I realised, while I love conceptualising creative ideas and expressing myself through art, the discipline and technical ability required for fine art simply wasn't something I had in my arsenal of talents. 

I had always written a fashion blog and loved fashion photography, so I threw myself into those areas of creativity when I realised that painting and sculpture were just too hands-on for my skill set. 

I came to the end of my first year and finished up at art college, knowing I wouldn't be returning again. I scraped FETAC accolade in Art and Design and met my ultimate existential crisis: What now? 

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I was barely 18, living with my complete dosser and fellow artist of a boyfriend, and knew that I wanted to continue my education, but just not in the field I had always thought.

So, I looked to what had always been my close second-to-favourite subject, English, for guidance. I had always loved writing, it was the one thing that came so naturally to me, but I never felt that it was a viable career path for me because I had always been so caught up in following my dreams of doing art. 

Unfortunately, the points I had secured in the Leaving Cert were coming back to haunt me, as no university would accept me for an English degree with 300 points – that's just a fact. 

So, I made one of the most defining and life-changing decisions I have probably ever made, and after a full year of independently going to college, I decided to return to my old secondary school and repeat the Leaving Cert. 

As my friends were venturing into their second year of university study, I was dusting off the plaid skirt of our old school uniform and making the far too familiar journey to our secondary school – something I never thought I would do ever again. 

Repeating was difficult. The first morning I walked into that assembly and looked into the sea of unfamiliar faces made of students, who had been two years below me in school, I was met with ones of confusion as people wondered 'why the hell is she back here?' It was sufficiently weird.

But, I knew I was back for a very specific reason, and I felt that the time was right for me to apply myself in a way I never had before. 

It was gruelling getting back into the swing of secondary school-style studying; memorising reams of information and pages of facts, and after the freedom of a full year of college, dashing to class at the ring of a bell and adjusting to wearing a uniform again was tough. 

Seeing my best friends from school enjoying their second year of college and trying to play catch up was also horrible. It was like I had two lives, in one I was myself, keeping up with nights out with my friends and trying to adult while in the other I was a bag of nerves, studying at any spare minute while clutching a copy of Less Stress More Success in each hand. 

Luckily, people were nice, the class of fellow repeats, who had been in the year below me before, were hugely supportive of each other as we swotted away in our study room, and I had definitely matured in my year away from home, and knew that I had to sacrifice this year to these exams in order to create the life I saw for myself in the future.

I hadn't fully appreciated this the first time around, so by the time my second Leaving Cert arrived, I actually felt the white-hot heat of pressure that I had missed out on previously. 

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The exams happened, I barely remember them now almost six years later, but I passed everything with somewhat flying colours, and at the end of that summer I was accepted into Dublin City University to study Journalism on a scholarship. 

I loved every second of my three years at DCU, so much so that I then went on to do a fourth in the form of a Masters Degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communications to compliment by Bachelors degree. 

Journalism was the right choice for me, and obviously it worked out because you're reading this article right now. 

One thing that really stuck with me about my LC experience is that putting pressure on a 16 or 17-year-old to decide what they want to pursue as their ultimate career is madness, and it's no wonder I thought art was for me when the only experience I had of it was my four hours a week in school. 

I spent a long time scared shitless that I would make another misstep, and follow the wrong path, but it's a risk you have to take.  

When it comes to deciding what you want to do in college, make sure you choose something that you know will make you happy, and that you know you have the capacity for. 

Seek out internships, talk to your school about getting work experience, and try your hand at as many things as possible until you find the thing that fits. 

If I hadn't been so single-minded and stubborn to pursue art and had opened my eyes a little to the possibilities that came from the other subjects I enjoyed, I might have gotten to where I am quite a lot faster. 

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Remember those all-nighters, last minute cramming sessions and caffeine-induced panic sweats. Yeah, exam season can be a stressful time.

As students, we would have tried any quick-fix that promised better results, and so we're only raging this little trick wasn't making headlines a few years back.

Students, we give you – rosemary. 

 

Holland & Barrett have reported a huge surge in sales of rosemary after a study carried out by Northumbria University revealed that exposure to the herd could boost memory.

According to The Independent, demand has been so high that stores have had to order in extra supplies. 

As part of the study, students were put in a room that contained the aroma of rosemary in the form of an essential oil. Researchers the discovered that those student preformed between five and seven per cent better in memory tests.

Researcher, Mark Moss, said, “It could be that aromas affect electrical activity in the brain or that pharmacologically active compounds can be absorbed.” 

This isn't the first time a link has been made.

In fact students in ancient Greece used to wear rosemary garlands during their exams. 

Who knew? 

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When your exams are just around the corner, food is probably the last thing you have time to worry about.

Long gone are the healthy days of wholesome food and regular exercise, you decide to survive on chocolate bars, takeaways and energy drinks.

Sorry to disappoint, but this is the worst thing you can do to your wallet, your body, and therefore your brain.

To function properly and get you through this challenging and stressful time, your brain needs to be fed properly and regularly. Meals don’t have to be complicated or time consuming if you follow our list. 

1. Pasta, rice and complex carbs

Ensuring a good level of energy during your studies is essential to make the most of your time and not feel sluggish.

Include wholegrain rice, pasta, porridge and bread in your diet, as well as starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pulses. 

2. Nuts

Good fats are essential for your brain, especially Omega 3 which are said to boost your memory.

When you get peckish, snack on almonds, walnuts, cashews and seeds to make sure you cover your needs.

Fatty fish are also a great source of Omega 3 so if you want to get a takeaway, go for a plate of sushi and a salad.

3. Fruits and vegetables

To get as much nutrients as possible, make sure to include fruits and vegetables in every meal and snack you have.

Kiwis, grapefruits, peppers, tomatoes, parsley and oranges for example are great sources of Vitamin C, which helps combat fatigue.

Overall, the more colourful your plate the better! (and we are not talking about pouring Skittles in a bowl and calling it dinner.)

4. Eggs

An excellent and cheap source of protein (to help build those brain cells), eggs might also improve memory according to a recent study.

Eggs and avocado on toast are a delicious, quick and super healthy meal that is perfect for the exam season.

5. Drink water!

Ditch the energy drinks and go easy on the coffee.

The one and only drink you really need during your exams is water as your cognitive functions and learning abilities decrease massively if your body is dehydrated – which happens even before you feel thirsty.

Aim at a minimum of 1.5l a day. 

Extra tip: SLEEP!

Going to bed at 5 am before an exam in order to catch up with all the classes you missed is the worst idea.

Sometimes, getting a good night of sleep – allowing you to show up with a refreshed mind and functioning brain – might actually be more useful than a last minute learning bootcamp. 
 

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Trinity College is about to break almost 400 years of academic tradition by introducing Christmas exams for students for the first time. 

The college is also set to introduce an earlier start to the academic year.

The changes are set to been implemented by the academic year 2018/2019. 

A survey run by the TCD Students’ Union in 2010 found that 90 per cent of students were in favour of a move, according to TCD's student paper.

Some members of the academic staff are against the move, citing the fact that it would "undermine research and require correcting two sets of exams," according to the Irish Times.

However, the vast majority of students feel that having two sets of exams is fairer to the students and would alleviate the pressure of a single exam season. 

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Tiredness: the problem that we ALL battle all too regularly.

Whether brought on by the likes of cramming for exams, partying, work, or Netflix binges – folk these days are constantly exhausted. 

But beyond the basics of coffee (and LOTS of it) there are various tips and tricks that will help you power on through. 

 

1. Stay hydrated:

Especially if you're downing cups of caffeine, you need to make sure that you're hydrated too – so ensure you're having plenty of water to aid better focus and concentration. 

2. Get active:

Getting your heart pumping: a brisk walk, a dance around the sitting room to your favourite tunes, or skipping in the garden – working up a sweat will do wonders to keep you awake.

3. Don't overheat:

Keep the central heating on low (or better still, turn it off altogether) – being too warm will only make you more sleepy. 

4. Stay away from sugar:

It's tempting to hit a chocolate vending machine if you're working shifts or travelling early/late. But while sugar might give you a temporary hit, studies show it will only make matters worse longer-term. So choose your snacks wisely, opting for slow-burning carbs or protein-fuelled nibbles to keep you going.

5. Chew gem:

Bizarre – but apparently true: a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience shows that chewing gum can increase alertness.

6. Sing a song:

The Journal Of Music Therapy says that singing a song will help perk you up – so pop on your earphones and blast out a tune! 

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Today we heard that Politics and Society will be introduced to the Leaving Cert syllabus next year.

The subject will taught at 25 schools around the country from September 2016, according to The Irish Times. Students will be learning about power and decision making on a local and global scale. 

Interesting? Possibly. However, this news gave us serious flashbacks to the night before the dreaded exams and the pressure of trying to remember all of the exact details involving in ox bow lake formation.

Then we realised that there are some subjects that maybe should have been included in the syllabus long ago. 

1. How on earth you should tackle doing 'the big shop': 

The aisles are packed with tasty snacks! What's the difference between shallots and red onions? Where do we find the good quality beef? People have questions.

2. How to survive your first real job: 

Are casual Fridays an urban legend or no?

3. How to handle a break-up like a damn adult: 

A practical exam that tests your ability to not send a regrettable text at 4 in the morning. 

4. The fine art of entertaining: 

House parties are fantastic. However, sometimes people actually expect a sit-down meal, at a real table, madness. 

5. How to find a place to live: 

College accommodation won't be there forever, and Sex And The City gave us unrealistic expectations about city living.

6. How to adopt a somewhat healthy lifestyle: 

Red Bull and Pot Noodles will only get us so far. 

7. Time Management: 

Falling asleep at your desk is very much frowned up in the land of the adults. So it would be best to know when it is not a good time to stay up until the crack of dawn watching Netflix.

How to be responsible on social media: 

For that moment when you're 57 weeks into your ex-boyfriend's brother's housemate's cousin's BFFs Instagram account. Oops.

 

 

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The new points scale for Leaving Cert students, which will directly affect any incoming fifth year students.

This is the first significant change to the state examinations in almost twenty years. Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan outlined the plans to change the grading of the Leaving Cert today.

Speaking about the changes she said:

“The new scale has been designed to minimise random selection for third level entry, which can be a source of huge frustration for students and their families.

It will also reward students who aim higher, both where they take the risk of sitting a higher level paper and for succeeding in those papers to a high standard.”

The changes will include a reduction in the number of possible grades to be awarded to students from 14 to 8.

Instead of the current A1 to NG scale, from 2017 onwards, students will be eligible to receive a grade of H1 to H7 for Higher level papers with Ordinary level papers going from O1 to O7.

Students who take on Higher levels subjects and earn more than 30 to 39 per cent in the exam. At the moment those percentages qualify as a failing grade, but the new changes will mean students could still earn CAO points with such a grade.  

Those who choose to take on Higher level Maths papers will also be able to earn extra points.

The new system will come into effect from the state exams due to take place in 2017. The new grading scale is hoped to help in alleviating some of the pressure many students face in their final years of secondary school.

 

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Students all over the country received their Leaving Cert results this morning, the culmination of 14 long years of schooling.

The dreaded LC is still imprinted on the memory of every former student as one of THE most stressful and bizarre life events there is. Twitter has been awash with messages of good luck, commiseration and celebration all morning, with Irish celebs joining in the banter too.

Here are some of our favourite tweets so far:

1. The Kodaline lads kept it simple… 

 

2. Eleanor Tiernan had these 'reassuring' words… 

 

3.  Whatever the result, you can wave bye-bye to (generally) useless information about rock formation – hurrah!

 

4. Ian Dempsey is very *down with the kids* 

 

5. Words of wisdom from Chris Greene 

 

6. Aw, you're making us all weepy, Síle Seoige 

 

7. Trust Dustin to bring the tone down… 

 

8. Ronan O'Gara is onto you. He has you sussed.

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You may have heard that tomorrow will be very special day for teenagers up and down the country tomorrow.

The second Wednesday in August can send some school leavers into a state of despair at the mere thought. Parents have also been known to get a bit tetchy around this time of year as well.

A quick gander through the hashtag #LeavingCert on Irish twitter today proves that is very much true today as exam students shared their dread with the world.

We gathered up some of the best from today and you can be sure tomorrow will have plenty of gems too.

Plenty of messages have been shared on social media to remind students that tomorrow’s results aren’t going to determine their entire future.

More people have taken to twitter to reminisce about their results day memories. Plenty of students have also been letting us know they intend to celebrate (or commiserate) tomorrow.

Surely it won't be that bad?

Ah yes, we know the feeling well.

Bit harsh, no?

Some people have been counting down the days….

We're not sure we were that enthusiastic to get a hold of the mysterious brown envelope…

Ah here.

One thing that we know for sure, there’s going to be candles light across the length and breadth of the country tonight in preparation for the big day.

 

 

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